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SpaceX's humans-to-Mars rocket gets fired up

The Raptor rocket gets an inaugural test firing ahead of a speech in which Elon Musk will outline his plan to colonize the Red Planet.

Elon Musk hopes to take humans to Mars by 2024. This could be the rocket that gets them there.

Elon Musk/Twitter

Elon Musk's private space endeavor SpaceX on Sunday conducted its first test of the Raptor rocket engine designed to take humans to Mars as early as 2024.

Musk tweeted about the test, which took place at the company's McGregor, Texas, facility, ahead of his keynote address at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress on Tuesday. In the speech, titled "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species," he is expected to unveil the design for the Mars Colonial Transporter, as well as his plan for colonizing the Red Planet.

The thrust of the Raptor rocket is measured at 3 meganewtons, said Musk. This should be handy given that there will like be 100 tons of cargo to lift when the Colonial Transporter sets off on its journey to Mars. The thrust of SpaceX's current rocket, the Falcon 9 that pushes cargo to the orbiting International Space Station, pales in comparison at just 654 kilonewtons.

Musk followed up by tweeting a picture of the rocket's "mach diamonds." Also known as shock diamonds, these are the standing wave patterns that appear in the exhaust plume of a propulsion system such as this.